Today we spend a day with Marcus and his Frenchie, Winky, in Brooklyn, New York.
Winky has IVDD which came on suddenly and without warning. Marcus came home from work to find him laying in the bathroom shaking and whimpering and without the use of his back legs. Winky had been fine on his lunchtime walk with his dog walker only a few hours earlier.
A trip to the emergency animal hospital confirmed that Winky would need urgent surgery as feeling to his hind legs was rapidly declining. Despite not haing insurance they went ahead with the surgery.
It’s been 2 years since Winky’s surgery and he’s slowly regained more feeling in his legs. However, complications in his recovery has meant that he has never regained his balance or movement completely. His right leg is weaker than his left. Thankfully, Winky regained full bladder control so Marcus only needed to express his bladder for the first one or two months post surgery.
Winky does seem to have weaker bowel control and they often do wake up to accidents. However, for the most part as long as he is walked to a regular routine he pees and poops outside like a fully abled dog.
Can you take us through a regular day with Winky?
Winky’s an early riser. He wakes up at 6am and will shuffle around outside the bedroom door and whine until you let him in or go out and see him.....then he goes back to sleep!
Sometimes Winky might have poop overnight in one of his 2 beds, which isn’t always the most fun thing to wake up to. It involves a lot of disinfecting and bed washing. We have since got him a new bed that you can take off the covers to easily wash.
I get him into his wheelchair and take him out of our building. If he hasn’t pooped it’s like running a gauntlet to get him outside quickly without pooping in the elevator or lobby. When he poops in his chair he just goes as he runs so you may find the start of the poop 20ft from the end of it - you also need to make sure you don’t walk through it as he usually walks ahead of me
Winky is pretty independent and walks without a leash either a few feet ahead of me or right along side me. He would never do that before his injury so he’s definitely adjusted his persona to become a little more relaxed.
Weekdays were a challenge for a long time as both me and his mum have to go to work.
We’ve been through several dog walkers and finally we now have some sort of consistency where someone knows his specific routine and how all his contraptions work. We moved after 1 year of Winky having IVDD and for that first year our walker was someone who was really dedicated to him and took great care of him and extra attention. Moving was traumatic and trying to find a walker we could trust who actually cared enough to take the extra time he needed was stressful.
Evenings are back with me after work and its my favorite time of the day as he makes all the stress of work go away. Considering everything he’s been through he’s usually a super happy dog and just very excited to meet other dogs and humans. He’s a local celebrity as everyone in the building and neighbourhood knows him which means walks can take a while to complete!
Our weekends are very relaxed. He loves to hang out as we have breakfast and read the papers. We usually have a long walk in the morning to try and tire him out. We have floor to ceiling windows that get lots of natural light in the mornings and he loves to lay in the sun and snooze. It can be tough balancing what we want to do on weekends with his needs and making sure we get back regularly for walks.
Trips away need a lot of thought and planning. We’re lucky to have a walker that stays over and cares for him when we’re away.
What treatments or rehabilitation have you tried?
We’ve tried every kind of rehab there is out there; acupuncture, electro acupuncture, water therapy, water treadmill, balance sessions, laser treatment etc... He can stand up and take a couple of steps (he looks a little drunk when he does this) and progressively he’s improved but he has atrophy in his muscles and we are resigned to him never fully walking again. He has a wheelchair and whizzes around in it happily. His mobility has improved so I’ve removed the leg stirrups from his chair to encourage him to walk more with his legs while he’s supported by his chair.
What products would you recommend or advice would you give to others?
Use boots or socks to protect their paws - they don’t have the same mobility as before and will need this to avoid cuts and scrapes.
Pee pads and in our case male dog wraps can be a great aid to avoid accidents.
Diaper rash cream is great for nether regions (our guy isn’t fixed so they help if he’s rubbed his testicles).
Yoga mats on hardwood floors make a world of difference - they stop him slipping around give him the traction he needs to get around easier.
Keep them clean. With accidents and dragging legs its easy to get cuts and sores that can become infected.
Be careful with food. Without the same level of exercise as before they can easily pack on weight. You’ll find that they pack on muscle on their front end as they compensate for lack of mobility in their back legs so it can easily become that their weight balloons without careful attention.
Don’t baby them post surgery - try and get them out and mobile - doing all the exercises suggested and making sure to tickle their feet to encourage feeling. Push them - they won’t always like it but they won’t suddenly get better or stronger unless you drive it.
Don’t be offended when people stare. The looks and comments take a while to get used to but usually it’s people fascinated by a dog in a wheelchair or sling and for the most part they give positive comments or messages. Kids will often ask questions to their parents very loudly “what’s wrong with that dog”, ”why does he have wheels?”. It’s just unusual for people to see so try not to get frustrated by it as it can be tiresome.
Be positive and don’t give up. Your dog can have a great life and still massively enrich yours. It’s tough and I’m not going to lie, it sometimes feels like a burden but the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m proud that I haven’t given up on him
Follow Winky’s adventures around Brooklyn on Instagram at @winkyonwheels.